Apartment project sparks lawsuit

CEDAR-ISLES-DEAN — Residents of a condominium building near Lake Calhoun’s north shore are suing over damage they say was caused by the ongoing construction of an apartment building next door.

Some residents of the Loop Calhoun are being advised to stay off their balconies this spring after the platforms began sloping away from the building. They suspect vibrations related to construction activity on the former Tryg’s Restaurant site, 3118 W. Lake St., have caused the deck supports to settle, making the structures potentially unsafe, Loop Calhoun Condominium Association President John Wessinger said.

An attorney representing the condominium association filed a civil suit March 21 in Hennepin County District Court. Named as defendants are a subsidiary of Dallas-based developer Trammell Crow Company, which owns the 3118 W. Lake St. property, as well as the project’s general contractor, Big-D Construction, and Kevitt Excavating.

A spokesperson for Trammell Crow said the company could not comment on pending litigation. Big-D Construction did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Foundation work for the six-story apartment building was paused for several months last year when residents of Loop Calhoun and another nearby condominium felt strong vibrations and began to notice hairline fractures in the walls and ceilings of their units. But the issues have progressed beyond cosmetic damage this spring, Wessinger said.

Under a construction easement agreement both parties signed last year, the Trammell Crow subsidiary is required to restore any Loop Calhoun property damaged during construction. Wessigner said those repairs were put off, and now they’re being told by the developer some of the damage was due to preexisting conditions on the site and not construction work.

“Things started to progressively get worse and worse and worse the more that nothing got fixed and they disregarded some of these repairs,” he said. “It went from being $100,000 in damages to now I think it’s upward of $500,000.”

There are 120 units in the Loop. Damage is concentrated in units on the west side of the building, closest to the construction site, Wessinger said.

According to the court filing, the condominium has not yet been compensated for any of the damage.

Both Trammell Crow and Big-D were in regular communication with the condominium association and Encompass, an engineering firm hired by the association, during and after the pause in foundation work last spring. Big-D even switched to an alternate foundation system after it learned of damage linked to sheet piling activities.

With Encompass, representatives from Trammell Crow and Big-D toured damaged condominium units, and Big-D also kept residents up-to-date on construction activities with a regular written report. But the relationship that developed between the parties last year appears to have eroded.

“It’s been surprising,” Wessinger said in late March. “I know the last month for sure kind of took a turn. I wasn’t planning for this (lawsuit) to happen at all.”

Trammell Crow originally projected the 164-unit luxury apartment building would be ready for occupancy in the third quarter of this year. It’s not clear whether last year’s construction delays have pushed back that date. The project also includes a 5,000-foot ground floor commercial space envisioned as a future restaurant.